Common Objections against confessionsPosted: October 5, 2010
Throughout the centuries there has been much criticisms against confessions. It has been said that they are the mere works of men and that we only need God’s Word. That Word alone is sufficient. Nowhere, they claim, does scripture, give the church the liberty to uphold human writings. Therefore they say “away with these confessions! Away with this paper pope!”. Against these objections we can state that the New Testament itself gives the beginnings of Confessions. Also we may state that in order to maintain the truth of God’s Word, the Church is called to summarize the truth. Thereby to uphold the truth. It sounds plausible that we only need God’s Word. And it is true that God’s Word alone is enough for salvation. We uphold Sola Scriptura. We do not need any other human writings or commentaries beside the Word of God. We fully confess the sufficiency of the scriptures. But this does not discharge the church from its calling to uphold the truth by clearly stating what the truth is. If we only say that we uphold God’s Word than we allow every person to misinterpret scripture and to propagate a heresy because this heretic claims that his views are based on scripture. By denying confessions, one undermines the truth of God’s Word while by upholding confessions we affirm the truth and form a foundation underneath the truth. The Church has to uphold the truth and she does this by means of confessions.
We are also to understand that confessions may never be above scripture but are to be subject to scripture. Only the Holy Scriptures are the source of all true knowledge of God. Only the scriptures provide us the rule of life and faith. Never may the confessions negate God’s Word. The Holy Scriptures form the well (the source) from which the church draws the statements concerning God’s truth. The confession is really a humble and modest servant who speaks only after the scriptures have first spoken and who only speak so much as scripture allows her to speak and who is silent whenever the Word is silent.
For the church, the formula “I submit myself to the scriptures”, is not enough. Because of all the many heresies based on scripture, many people are not clear on what the scriptures states. These people lord over scripture and wrest these words. The call back to the scriptures and no confessions is actually a call to forsake the authority of scripture and to promote one’s own ideas. What often happens is that first in the name of scripture the confessions are condemned. But after that, one has all kinds of objections against scripture itself! These people only maintain that part of scripture that they appreciate and that is what they call God’s Word. In modern theology, you see this process prolonged and leading to a criticizing of the persons of Christ and eventually a criticism of the God of Scripture itself. The end result is that nothing is left of Christianity. In the 17rh Century it were the Arminians who criticized the Heidelberg Catechism and the Belgic Confession. Liberalism, in the 19th and 20th Century, heavily criticized the confessions. In our day a man like Harry Kuitert (professor at the Free University, Amsterdam) criticizes even the whole of Christianity.
Our Reformed Confessions were written in the struggle of the church to maintain God’s Word. The Church was forced to confess the truth. She had to take a stand in the theological controversies of the 1600’s.